Thollem is a perpetually traveling pianist, keyboardist, composer, improviser, singer-songwriter, activist, author and teacher. He’s spent most of his life living on the road throughout North America and Europe. His work is ever-changing, evolving and responding to the times and his experiences, both as a soloist and in collaboration with hundreds of artists across idioms and disciplines.
Thollem dives headlong into fascinating unforeseen and bold musical adventures that make him one of the most interesting pianists of the current improvised music genre…the result is the natural consequence of being intrinsically eclectic at heart. – Eduardo Chagas, TomaJazz (Portugal)
New solo acoustic/electric album
on Astral Spirits
Live concert recordings from Centro d’Arte in Padova, AngelicA Festival in Bologna and the Rassegna di Nuova Musicain Bologna
Thollem’s new solo acoustic/electric album Obstacle Illusion on Astral Spirits Records is born out of his love for a myriad array of music that he’s lived and studied over the years. The music is genre-bending, code-switching, omni-idiomatic, internationalist, intersectional and intentional. It represents the culmination of Thollem’s life’s experiences as a musician and a human being in dialogue with the universe.
Thollem displays a chameleonic ability to adapt to suit whatever musical context presents itself…There is more than one way to access the infinite.
Daniel Spicer, The Wire
“Terry Riley met McDonas at a party at former Kronos cellist Joan Jeanrenaud’s house and listened in awe to the pianist’s CD on the drive home. ‘He’s absolutely mesmerizing,’ Riley says. ‘He’s very free. He starts with an idea and you watch him develop it in a way that unfolds like a beautiful flower, organically.’” – SF Chronicle
Meeting at the Parting Place is a true tour de force of spontaneous music creation;
a wonderful example of what happens when immense technique, boundless
inspiration and highly focused artistic vision converge.
Dave Wayne, All About Jazz
Thollem welds elements of jazz, blues and classical music into a mighty tower of song, then shatters his construct with the breathless bull-rush of a mystic improviser.
The River Front Times (St. Louis)
Listening to Thollem McDonas play the piano is an astonishing experience. He has an innate ability to compose transcendent music using the piano as his expressive voice and to explore the depth and range of the instrument like no one else. Meeting At The Parting Place will take you on journeys across varied landscapes that flow effortlessly from one to the next — somehow emerging logically even in their unpredictability. Thollem creates a spectacular tapestry of different colored sounds reflecting his awareness, study and assimilation of countless influences. In Terry Riley’s own words, Thollem McDonas is ‘a true original’.
Excerpt from the liner notes by Joan Jeanrenaud, Composer, Cellist (Kronos Quartet 1978-98)
Anyone who has heard Thollem McDonas or Stefano Scodanibbio as a soloist might well imagine what a combination of their unique genius could produce. Now you can hear it for real on Debussy’s piano…yes…the same piano the magical, marvelous and world-changing Claude Debussy once owned and played himself. And Debussy’s spirit certainly hovers here in the auras of ferocious demoniacal energies and delicate impressionistic shades of vibration emanating from these mesmerizing, polished structures. Scodanibbio, for many years now, has redefined and expanded greatly the techniques of playing the double bass. He has made this instrument speak in ways never before experienced and has unleashed a sonic arsenal for this instrument that has inspired composers like Cage, Berio and Stockhausen to heap praise on this wonderful 21st c. Paganini. On this recording he burns through Thollem’s structures with fire and elegance. Thollem’s keyboard flights unleash cascades of notes of seemingly impossible velocity and no matter where he goes tonally, it always seems right, fresh and satisfying. He should be on everyone’s listening list who appreciates great piano music. As an improviser, he inhabits a world uniquely his own, rhythmically, harmonically and formally. A true original; On Debussy’s Piano And…, Thollem and Scodanibbio. An imaginative idea, wonderfully realized with virtuosity, improvisational mastery and intuitive communication of deep sensibility all residing here in the magical marriage of their artistry. – Terry Riley, liner notes, On Debussy’s Piano And…
SOLO PIANO ALBUMS
• The Reincarnation of Henri Herz (BandCamp, 2022)
• Thollem Solo (Astral Spirits, 2021)
• Your Letter Must Have Followed Me All Over The World (Two Rooms Records, 2018) – Microtonal piano music in collaboration with tuner Clem Fortuna
• Meeting At The Parting Place (Odradek Records, 2016)
• Dear Future, (WIld Silence, 2013) – Archival recordings of Thollem from the 70s and 80s
• Gone Beyond Reason To Find One (Edgetone Records, 2010)
• Racing The Sun, Chasing The Sun (Creative Sources, 2008)
• So Much Heaven, So Much Hell (Saravah, 2008)
• On Debussy’s Piano (BandCamp, 2008) – Thollem played 5 pieces Claude Debussy composed on the last piano he owned, 100 years prior to this recording.
• Poor Stop Killing Poor (Edgetone Records, 2007)
• Nuclear Bomb, Cave Painting (Pax Recordings, 2006)
“Half pianist, half hurricane”
Steve Holtje, Culture Catch
“One of the most captivating pianists working today”
Rui Eduardo Paes, Jazz.pt
“His sound ecosystem is wet, like a rain forest dripping with life and death: shadowed in darkness but nourished by hot sunlight, teeming with crouching predators and bright birds exploding from the trees, their raucous bellows resonating and echoing through hollow canyons and caverns.”
Tom Djll, Signal To Noise (US)